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Teaching Large Classes

June on the TEFL Times has been set aside for a series of articles from Sharon K Couzens de Hinojosa, the creator and writer for TEFL Tips.

Teaching English is challenging enough, but when you have a large class, things get even more difficult. But there are some things that you can do to make it easier for you as a teacher and help your students learn English.

● Write the rules with the students. When the students participate in making the rules, they will feel that they are more fair than those that the teacher makes. An added plus is that usually students make stricter rules than teachers.

● Give instructions clearly and check comprehension. Most students would rather just nod and say that they understand than ask for clarification, so if you do comp checks you can ensure that they really understand what was said.

● Dictations. Try playing a listening at twice its normal speed, than have students work together to piece the listening together.

● Write things on butcher paper or OH or PPP beforehand. Writing on the board is time consuming, so if you have everything written out beforehand, you’ll save much needed time.

● Use drawings. Drawings can make a class fun and are worth 1000 words, so why not use them in class? You don’t have to be an artist. There are lots of books out there on how to make stick drawings for class. And often the ugliest drawings get the best reactions from the class.

● Bring realia. By showing students real objects, they will make the connection between English and their lives.

● Use what students see. Direct to indirect, reported speech are just a few things that you can practice using your students’ own words.

● Activity notebook. Everyone works at different speeds, so some will finish sooner than others. Rather than just having them sit and do nothing, or worse, start distracting others, give them something to do. At the beginning of the term, you can give them worksheets that they can do when they finish or put a folder in the back of the room with things to do in it.

● Importance of learning a language. Discuss WHY learning English is important and help motivate your students to learn it.

● Move away from students. When a student speaks softly the biggest mistake that you can make is moving closer to them. Move away from them so that they have to project their voice.

● Adapt material. It’s hard to use everything from the book, so change some of the material so that it better suits your students. Change the vocabulary or topics so that your students will see how English relates to them.

● Have sequential material, low and high students. Have different questions according to the level so that all students can feel challenged.

● Use students to help. Students can pass out papers and even help explain exercises and grammar to their peers.

● Have them write goals. Make students work toward something. If they see what they’re working for, they will able to see progress..

● Routines. They make students comfortable and will lessen the need for explanations. If students know that they do listening, followed by pair work, etc, they will automatically be prepared for what they have to do.

● Teach them to be respectful. In large groups, respect is of utmost importance. They have to realize that they need to take turns speaking and listening to other ideas. Teach them this form the beginning and things will be easier.

● One paper per groups. Save trees and teach students to work in groups. By sharing papers, they will be forced to work together.

● Work on editing. By having students read each other’s work, they will be able to recognize mistakes and also be able to explain why they are wrong.

● Have assigned groups and change them weekly or monthly. IF students know who they are working with, then less time will be wasted creating groups. Change it up every once in a while so that people get the chance to work with other people.

● Group students. Creating smaller groups allows students the chance to speak and practise their English.

● Walk around. Don’t just stand in front of the class and lecture. Moving around and you can help students when needed.

● Create activity corners. Think of a couple of activities that students can do on their own or with a small group. Put these activities in different places around the room. Students are free to move around as they finish an activity. You could have listening in one corner, a speaking exercise in the net, a problem solving one in another, or possibly a game at the front of the room and a song in the back. The options are limitless.

● Try discussions. Everyone has an opinion, though not everyone may want to voice it in front of a large class. Break students up and give them a topic to discuss. You can either walk around and listen and correct what they have to say, or have them present their ideas in front of the class, or do both.

● Get to know the students. Yes, it’s difficult to memorise everyone’s names, but it makes things a lot easier and lets the students know that you take the time to get to know them. If names are hard for you, try a seating chart, or name tags.

● Make yourself available. Let your students know that they can meet you at certain times on certain days in order to ask you questions about what was taught in class.

● Ask for feedback. Surveys can do wonders for your teaching. Students have valuable suggestions on how you can make your class a better learning environment, so ask them.

● Make comments. Grading papers is hard enough, but when you have tons of students it can be a daunting task, nevertheless, you should write comments on each students’ paper, even if it’s just to say good job.

● Change things up. Do different activities during class. Movies, songs, drama, role plays, and debates are all great activities for large classes.

● Call on everyone. Don’t just call on the people in the front or those with their hands up. Call on those in the back as well, so that they know that they can’t hide from you.

● Projects. Have students do a project or two where they have to work in groups. Not only will they get the chance to meet other people, but they will also learn valuable group working skills.

● Provide an outline. Let students know what will be discussed in each class with a simple syllabus. Then for each class, write an outline on the board about what will be taught in class.

● Be fair. You’ll probably get to know some students more than others, but you still need to be fair. Make sure all your rules, about being late, missing assignments, etc, apply to everyone. Using rubrics, whether created by you or the students, work well and let students know how you are grading.

● Don’t shout. The students should listen to you while you’re giving instructions. If they don’t, make sure that there is a consequence for them. For example, if you have to wait more than ten seconds, they have to stay one minute after class.

About the author

Sharon K Couzens de Hinojosa is the creator and writer for TEFL Tips, The LA Job List, and The Ultimate Peru List. She enjoys answering people’s questions about TEFLing and Peru.

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